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Lockdown opens a window for e-commerce

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A shopper views a local e-commerce Facebook page in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Lockdown opens a window for e-commerce

With authorities tightening security to prevent community transmission in Phnom Penh and Kandal province’s Takhmao town, e-commerce activity, cashless payments and delivery services have logged a notable rise, swiftly becoming new features of the digital world in Cambodia.

With the dramatic upsurge in number of new Covid-19 cases reported in connection to the February 20 community transmission, the government on April 14 announced a full lockdown in the capital and neighbouring Takmao town in Kandal province from April 15-28 to control the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

To drive digital payment adoption, local business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce platform Smile Shop on April 20 announced that new users would receive $10 for their first cashless purchase during lockdown.

Jack Lee, co-founder and CEO said in the announcement that Covid-19 had plunged the world into a “new normal” and that migration to digital had become a hot topic in Southeast Asia.

With the Kingdom at a “critical” junction, he said e-commerce platforms provide the government and people that extra edge in the fight against the pandemic.

“The digital economy will be a key factor in economy recovery after the pandemic. Smile Shop is committed to building a great agricultural marketplace ecosystem to bring Cambodian products from the farm to national markets and abroad, and will lend its support to provide local goods on large Chinese e-commerce platforms by opening a flagship store in the Kingdom,” Jack said.

Smile Shop said it recently launched a “buy local” project to connect local small- and medium-scale farmers’ products with a larger base of consumers online, even with a limited understanding of e-commerce.

The platform’s team would provide the technology, marketing, payment solutions, customer service and delivery as needed, it added.

Theab Sovannareth, another co-founder, said that with Amazon.com Inc as a role-model, Smile Shop would bring the US multinational tech firm’s “user-friendly and stress-free shopping experience” to Cambodian consumers.

Smile Shop offers free delivery round-the-clock in the capital, and customers in the provinces are guaranteed to receive their orders within 72 hours, he said, adding that the platform provides full support to its merchants.

Its emphasis on original, quality products and availability of payment options sets Smile Shop apart from its competition, he claimed. “Most other platforms in Cambodia are only cash-on-delivery.”

Smile Shop also promotes the ‘Made in Cambodia’ label abroad. “Another goal of Smile Shop is to help local small businesses sell their products in Cambodia and abroad.

“Some of the companies listing their products on our platform include Sela Pepper and Royal Mongkut Rice, which export a lot to China through Smile Shop,” Sovannareth said.

Smile Shop was founded by Chinese businessman Jack Lee and locals Sovannareth and Chamroeun in 2018.

As of May, the number of active mobile phone subscriptions across the Kingdom’s six operators was 20,481,051, down by 0.08 per cent year-on-year, the latest data from Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia show. This figure is the equivalent of 124.09 per cent of the total population.

The number of mobile internet subscriptions across Cambodia’s seven providers also recorded a 2.36 per cent drop to 14,863,435, whereas fixed broadband internet subscriptions across the Kingdom’s 37 providers logged a 33.07 per cent climb to 249,132.

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